Many would agree that American politics is an absurdity. But what is at the root of this sad circumstance? I believe it is a lack of understanding of what politics ought to be. What we see on the political stage–as well as off it–are individuals battling over whose ideology is right. In the name of freedom we have individuals fighting against taxation and government services. In the name of the common good we have other individuals fighting to maintain or increase taxation and government services. The first group wants self-reliance and small government, while the second group wants government to step in to counteract society’s inequalities. And so the two groups take turns yelling at each other, convincing no one in the process.
The problem is that the paradigm within which these two groups are operating is flawed. Each side is trying to win rather than arrive at ethical and scientific truth–the proper purpose of politics. Politics ought to be about ethical philosophy and social science. First we must engage in ethical philosophy to determine what our goal ought to be. Once that is established, we ought then engage in social science to determine how we may reach our goal.
There is no need for political ideologies. There is no need for socialism or conservatism or libertarianism. Instead we should identify ourselves through our ethical philosophies–Kantianism, utilitarianism, humanism, or of course some personal hybrid.
When it comes to social science, we must simply aim to be objective. After all, we need to know the truth in order to be successful fulfilling our ethical principles. Thus, we must recognize the reality that both biological and environmental factors play a role in human behavior. We should view an individual’s biology as a filter through which thon experiences the world. We should inquire into the distribution of various biological traits instead of making the unsophisticated assumption that “humans are naturally selfish” or that “humans are born good and corrupted by society”. Let’s carefully look into the various factors influencing human society. Let’s respect the difficulty in differentiating inborn from learned traits. Let’s pursue as full a perspective as we can muster, while respecting our analytical limits.
Through a true devotion to the ethical, we can produce much progress. We need only the vision to see why this is imperative, the courage to critically inquire into our own beliefs, and the strength to endure the uncomfortable feeling that will result.